Reviewby Theron Martin, Nov 19th 2006
DVD 3: Teamwork
Cou and Ren are learning to respect each other more and work together more efficiently as a team, which leads them to mutually decide to check out an underground gladiatorial arena for Edel Raids when it's suggested to them as a way to make money. Cisqua and her team are also independently investigating these illegal games in Razfe Ankul, while Rasati fights in the same games to earn enough money to free herself and her adopted Edel Raid sister Lillia from debt, and thus insure Lillia's safety from kidnappers. Once that matter has been resolved, it's off to Arc Aile HQ and the home of the protected Edel Raids, but it soon becomes apparent that not everything there is on the up-and-up. And who is the mysterious voice in Ren's head who guides her to Edel Garden?
As the series progresses to its midway point, Elemental Gelade continues to be a pleasant surprise. Though as ordinary and typical in construction as a shonen series can be, it is nonetheless entertaining and unexpectedly involving. Where other such series would wallow in their stereotypical elements, EG manages to rise at least a bit above the pack.
Part of the credit in this volume goes to story execution. Yeah, the courageous fighter toiling for a better life for her and a loved one is classic shonen content, but it works here without being overly sappy. Yeah, it's only natural to expect that R.E.N. and Cou are going to be drawn closer by their association, but the way they have learned to bond together and support and look out for one another not only produces some powerful and impressive tricks (the “wind armor” is a particularly neat gimmick) but feels good and right.
The ending of the Razfe Ankul story arc in episode 11 also opens up a new arc which suggests, for the first time, that Arc Aile may not ultimately be as purely altruistic as Cisqua has made it out to be. This development shouldn't be a major surprise to anyone, but it does gives the series a substantial push in the Long-Term Plot Development department, an area that had been somewhat lacking in the two previous volumes. Supporting characterizations also continue to be a strength, especially the “I-can't-afford-to-lose” determination of Rasati and money-grubbing promotion-hungry Cisqua's capacity for pulling weapons (in this case rocket launchers) from nowhere.
Weak points, unfortunately, are also plentiful. The outside background art is pathetic and the series has a bad habit of illogically stalling battles to insert dramatic character interaction. Although R.E.N. actually has a bit of a personality in this one, she is still listless compared to nearly everyone else in the cast, and Cou looks and feels like he was specifically designed to be the stereotypical shonen hero. Plane designs also look dorky, but the series doesn't take itself seriously enough for that to be a major issue.
Aside from its outdoor backgrounds the artistry isn't bad, it just isn't particularly original or exciting. Even the more intense fight scenes provide a thrill more from tone and pacing than from visual cues. The animation is also wholly unremarkable. The Yuki Kujiara musical score maintains the high standard it set in earlier volumes, though, producing a sound which not only elevates the content it backs but is good enough for its OST to be worth an independent listen.
Ocean Group's English dub is as solid here as in earlier episodes, as it continues to do a great job of matching actors to the roles and original performances, both for recurring roles and for new ones. The weak spot mentioned in the previous volume, Brenna O'Brien as R.E.N., is less noticeable this volume, as R.E.N. gets more opportunities to talk and be (slightly) expressive. The script doesn't stray much from the original, with the main differences being the lack of use of “senpai” (or any equivalent) when Rowen addresses Cisqua and Rasati's attack names being translated in the dub, when they are left in romanized form in the subtitles.
The third volume is lighter on extras than the previous one, with the only real extras being a pair of series trailers displayed at Japanese conventions in 2005 and a preview of volume 4 in the liner notes. The penchant for foil covers has continued.
Elemental Gelade will never be in the same league as top shonen series like Fullmetal Alchemist, but it isn't trying to be, either. It's only trying to be entertaining by mixing funny content and action with a lightly dramatic storyline, and at that it does passably well.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C+
Art : C
Music : A-
+ Musical score, solid English dub.
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